GAIA has done it again, and in record time, too. Just months after the original Sword & Poker nabbed our runner-up position for Game of the Month in January, a sequel with several noticeable improvements has hit the App Store. After becoming lost once again in its mazes, monsters, and magical poker hands, we’re ready to declare Sword & Poker 2 is even better than the original.
The core gameplay remains unchanged from last time around. You still control the same nameless adventurer, who crawls through dungeons to play a unique variation of heads-up poker against monsters. Nine cards make up the center of the board, and you can play two cards at a time by placing them on the outside and forming a poker hand. The higher the hand, the more damage you’ll deal to your opponent.
Gnome man’s land.
Very quickly you’ll be introduced to a dozen minor variations, like magic spells that will increase your attack, shuffle the central cards, or boost your health. You can also earn credits to buy weapons, armor, and more health.
The absolute genius of Sword & Poker 2 lies in its teasing offers of more credits at every turn. You are constantly tempted to push yourself through one more battle without healing, so that you can cash in for more goodies. If you play well and are blessed with lucky cards, you can advance more quickly through the dungeons. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself back at the start of each stage, asking yourself where you went wrong.
Sword & Poker 2 contains a number of improvements over the original, most notably the separate themed stages. Instead of one massive dungeon like in the first game, S&P 2 requires you to find keys in four different dungeons before you can even tackle the main event. These dungeons even introduce gameplay twists, like a darkened tower that obscures the pathway to the exit, forcing you to fight your way through blindly.
What, no Caesar’s Palace?
This time around, you can also preview your opponent’s abilities, giving you a chance to gear up appropriately, and there are some delightful traps like monsters that mimic treasure chests (the bane of any RPG adventurer). Another fantastic addition are gold monsters, which will not attack you at all, but will run away after surviving for one round. If you can beat them in one round, they’ll drop rare loot like armor and weapons you can’t buy in the game’s store.
Sword & Poker 2 manages to improve on the original in a number of minor ways, and it also throws in a lot of new spells and items. If you’re like us, you’re probably still working your way through the original game’s advanced dungeons, and S&P 2 provides just as much (if not more) gameplay as the original. Expect to sink at least ten hours into this iPhone masterpiece.
Not a lot of games can combine the charm of an RPG with the compulsive appeal of poker. This game contains a level of depth that is nearly impossible to match on the App Store. Playing Sword and Poker 2 is like being dealt a royal flush at the high-stakes table: The thrill is second to none.